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tv   American Artifacts  CSPAN  September 1, 2014 7:15pm-8:01pm EDT

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demand was so low, le les miserables just came out. les miserables.
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>> i'm tom blanson onñ r the to floor of the main library of george washington university. which is where we live. and we're in a room ful of declassified documents. a lot of the people using our collections are using them online. for a lot of these kids, if it's not online, it doesn exist. part of our whole mission has been to get these primary sources loose from the government through frae dom of information act request.
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and then get them into digital format! how are you funded and where did you come from? we were started from a group of journalists to save their family, i think they created the national security archive as a institutional memory and a follow up. we inherited their pending information of class. the really sensitive documents, there's a debate about is this
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kl+ally secret?éjññi or can this be released? it can take years to get a declassification request through the system. this has been an iterative story for 50 years. to get the documents loose. bits and pieces and not the whole truth. >> what is an interseptember? >> when electronic communication, radio telephone communication or wiretap of
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somebody's message. during this period of the 1960s, north vietnam was one of our top signals. the key interseptembers were those between the torpedo boats, who could do some real damage to us offshore. we had taken over for the french. we probably made a big mistake after world war ii by not
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recognizing the nationalists aspirations. there were some reasons we did that. france, we needed this part of nato in rebuilding europe against stalin and communist threat. so we came in on france's side. the japanese had beat them and taken over. for the vietnamese, t it was the japanese and the french. and then the french got beat, they got thrown out and we came in.
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we had supported the southerners. they knew in the late 1950 z, they would have lost. hoe chho chi minh had the highe debate. free elections are purely utilitarian. that was in retrospect.
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it seems to be a turning point. we were hearing that he was wanting to cut a deal with hanoi and we had a lot of rhetoric about the south is the freedom and the north is the tyranny and we've got to be there. there was a great book written about our hue brous and how we could do it right.
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we had not escalated the war by doing systematic bombing cam feigns against the north. that would happen a year later in 1965. you had the u.s. navy testing against the north to figure out what their defenses were. part of the american mind set was this game theory and then
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your american o poent would respond to the pressure. and by escalating like that in time, you could force hanoi to work it back down. i think this was a fundamental misconception. johnson was learning some of the wrong perceptions. the public myth was going eyeball to eyeball and they
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blinked. we know that kennedy was scared. before the missile crisis, kennedy was running covert operations: you read some of their letters and messages and you get to the strong sense that the top guys 234 the kremlin and the white house, they got it. they got it that things were slipping out of control.
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we now know things that kennedy didn't know. if we had invaded, it would be a smoking pile of rubble. we stood tough, they backed down. now that we can look through the historians work, inside the historian's work, the national security agency who pursued the story, had access, went and did the basic fundmental work that
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analysts should have done at the time. where did they predict the internal, secret, official story. and then that historian wrote a qualified article off the coast of vietnam. we can look through the historian's work and then listen to president johnson's phone calls.
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one, that the north vietnamese attacks were actually provoked by us. they weren't the unprovoked aggression. top secret to test coastal defenses, to see how they would respond respond and to interset their communications among their naval head quarters.
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so this was one of the big secrets. >> i think we should explain this opland 34a. there's no question for what that had bearings on. we probably shot off a radar station and a few other miscellaneous buildings. following 24 hours after that, undoubtedly let them. >> they're aware that we provoked it.
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they're just defending their coastline against our agregsz. then you have to spit out more lives to keep it alive. >> it is my duty to the american people to rorpt theport that re hostile actions against the united states ships in the high seas have, today, required me, to order the military forces of the united states to take action
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and reply. the destroyers and supporting aircraft acted at once on the orders gave after the initial act of aggression. we believe at least two of the attacking boats are sunk. >> false warning, everyone's on edge.
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we were moving these destroys like this. they set off all kinds of wakes and those wakes are then picked up by the other destroyer's sonar. and then you've got commanders saying we're under attack. we saw them. we took pictures of them zooming across the bow.
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here, nobody had an eye sight c confirmation at all. when the commander says wait a second, i'm thinking that really didn't happen. >> all right, maybe it was flying fishes. >> we just got word that the destroyer is under torpedo attack.
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we'll go over these retaliatory actions. >> where are these torpedos coming from? >> we don't know. washingt washington, in johnson's view could want it to shoot. so false reports gave them an excuse to do something they want today do.
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mcnamara actually paid aterngs. he gets this follow up where the ship commander says don't think so. he calls up and says what's with this? you don't understand we're already in motion here. we're gearing up. those hanoi commies, they better watch out. what's up with these messages?
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and right at that moment, an ñiircept rolls in.2 they just summarize this document to continue to defend second commission did take place.
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p we sacrificed two ships and all the rest are okay. we shot at two enemy airplanes, not we shot down. and at least two other planes were damaged. the summary, we sacrificed two ships and all the rest are okay. so when you go back to the original, you see the word comrades. two boats sounds like a huge attack took place. so by going back and looking at these originals, which is what
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the national security agency should have done at the time, but didn't: instead, they prepared a chronology that would show irrefutably what the president had said on national television. and the story we now know is two different intercepts picks up the same message. it was their interpresetation oa second message.
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protect american sailor's lives. so you can see where that, well, better warn. there's a hint of it. same commune kaxs were being intercepted by another unit but they were actually being reflenished, i think, is the word they used. but because it's a transformation, the critic one comes through the system in washington and on the destroyers hours and hours.
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you can see what that does. two of them came from that one, false message. so this message confirms something. >> unprovoked attacks will be prompt response. >> the attack wouldn't be enough for a blank check resolution to pursue war.
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he knew we were running our own covert operations. you couldn't present the second of august as unprovoked regression. but in public office, they said if they attack us again, we're going to whack them. they've prepared con tingcontiny plans. >> i would say to them that some months ago, you asked us to be
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prepared for any eventuality. we have everything prepared for all of the target systems of north vietnam. and i would describe this to the leaders simply ind kating that it's your desire to prepare detailed movement studies. >> to, obviously, if you go put this in the paper -- >> yeah, i'm going to tell them that. and your enemy reads about it, he thinks you're already taking off and thinks we're at war. >> i was going to start my remarks like that to be sure it doesn't get in the paper.
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>> in those two hours, you're committed publicly. hit'm back. >> it's good, but they want to be damn sure that we affirm. that's what all the country wants. he raises hell about how we're going to blow them off the moon. we sure ought to always leave the impression if you shoot at us, you're going to get hit. >> swift and sure has been u.s. retaliatory attacks.
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>> 25 boats, more than half the fleet, were destroyed. it is estimated 10% went up in flames after direct hilts. there was tons of electronic develop. s. during the fourth of august, you have the american destroyers performing torpedo ins the waterer. there's no electronic signal. there's no communications being picked up. it's like a sherlock holmes story. a dog that doesn't bark.
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when a dog on the inside doesn't bark it's an inside job.f;ydd
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so he sent his staff over to the senior staff meeting. the bombers are going off guam, north vietnam, taking a huge pummelling.
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so he comes in and says there was a lot more than last night. on the first attack, the evidence would be pretty good. this resulted, primarily, from correlating bits and pieces of information, eliminating double counting and mistaken signals. so you had less information today than yes and you had already bombed them. so it was, you know, this was
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him perhaps the matter should not be thought through too far.
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he welcomes the recent events. he had drafted a resolution like this back in june. as commander in chief, he wanted congress's blessing. a blank check. >> in part, we had the upper hand. the north vietnamese were a little bit on the defense. we were planning them with all of these covert operations. but here was this adregs. but the recent events justification was something we wanted to do for some time. this is the quintessential cherry picking of intelligence to enforce pre-arranged conclusions. it's a chilling discussion because you've got them admitting that they're less certain, but this gives them leverage to go forward.
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so the parallels with other disasters in human history, the cherry picking, oh, the yellow cake, oh, the aluminum tubes. t. oh, that doesn't pan out? oh, that's all right. we've been wanting to do this anyway, so let's go do it. it's a -- it illustrates, i guess, a perpetual temptation among policymakers. part of it's human nature. everybody comes to subjects with their biases and prejudices. but then you're picking up the information that reinforces what you already think. this was the beginning of escalation, those bombing raids from the 4th of august, the beginning of the escalation, the really big escalation wouldn't happen until the following february of '65 when george bundy who's joking here but saying he wanted to do this anyway. it happens to be in vietnam when
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the viet kong when an outpost happens to be at that outpost. he takes it personally. says oh, they're targeting me. they weren't. we now know from sources that they didn't know he was there. it took him three months to organize this attack to get the supplies down from the north on foot, all that stuff. it was on a prearranged schedule, but bundy takes it as a reason they're attacking. this is like the tonkin. it's targeting me and we're going to escalate. >> this is 250 miles north of saigon. the air bias that was ripped by vietnamese communist guerrillas. eight americans died in the attack that brought swift retaliation by u.s. and south vietnamese forces. meanwhile, president johnson's special assistant for security affairs mcgeorge bundy arrives at the scene of the raid. he was in vietnam on a mission for the president when the attack took place. and he holds a battlefront conference with lieutenant general khan before returning to
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washington. while he conferred with vietnamese officials, the national security council was meeting in washington. it was these meetings that brought the swift decision to strike back at the viet cong to reemphasize to continue to defend the cause of freedom in southeast asia. >> and that leads them into this incredible escalation of forces. and you go back and you listen to the mcnamara and johnson tapes on the 2nd and 3rd, 4th of august, and you see this sort of automatic response in place. somebody's going to shoot at us, we're going to shoot back. not we're going to try to figure out what it is that they're reacting to, what is it that they want. what is it they're trying ingi to put themselves in our shoes. they shoot at us, we're going to shoot back and you get into the he sa
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escalatory dynamic. >> mr. bundy arrives back in washington the next day. and he immediately goes into conference with the president and the security council. he tells reporters that he found political and religious factions in vietnam united in their belief that the viet cong is their common enemy. >> i think it's fair to say that the americans in vietnam are in very good heart and are prepared to continue even against this kind of danger and this kind of sneak attack. >> i think for american citizens, the lesson is what ronald reagan used to say to gorbachev about arms control. trust but verify. i think for policymakers, the lesson is don't necessarily trust your gut. look for dissent and debate, and this is one of the questions that the insider historian
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asked, why would my agency, the national security agency, supposed to present unbiased intelligence to policymakers? why would we slant it? and he asked three or four conclusions. one was pressure of the moment. two is precursor messages that showed attacks were coming. three, you know what the top policymakers want to hear. four, you saw the president on tv announcing the bombing attack. now you're going to be the one to walk into the oval office and say oops. nope. wrong. maybe shouldn't have done that. no. you're not going to be that intelligence analyst. and the other reasons in part is that once the top policymakers take those steps, then they really only want to listen to the folks who reinforce the decisions they already made, the
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course of action they'd been intending to take for a while. and the people who are dissenting from it or bringing inconvenient facts to the table either get pushed away from the table, the memo about how our policy in vietnam is just wrong. we know a lot about that memo. it's been declassified. we've got the memoirs of humphrey, of johnson, of humphrey's staff people who helped draft it. johnson ostracized him for a year, cut him off, refused to let him come to vietnam policy discussions.
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humphrey hadn't decided publicly. he hadn't leaked anything. he hadn't tried to build an internal coalition against the president. but he had written a critical dissenting memo that didn't agree with what the president was doing. so the president decided, you're disloyal. the vice president. you're disloyal. you're not coming to the meetings anymore. and it was a year before humphrey got to come back to the table. well, if that's how dissent and inconvenient facts are being received at the very highest levels, what happens if your national security agency intercept analyst says oops. and i guess the final lesson of the time, here we had the ability to listen in on north vietnamese conversations. and yet we did not seem to have an understanding of what it was they were fighting for, how long they would fight and what that meant. for what we ought to do.
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we were listening, but we weren't hearing. >> finally, i have today met with the leaders of both parties and the congress of the united states. and i have informed them that i shall immediately request the congress to pass a resolution, making it clear that our government is united in its determination to take all necessary measures and support a freedom and in defense of peace in southeast asia. i have been given encouraging assurance by these leaders of both parties that such a resolution will be promptly introduced, freely and expeditiously debated and passed with overwhelming support.
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and just a few minutes ago, i was able to reach senator goldwater, and i am glad to say that he has expressed his support of the statement that i'm making to you tonight. >> you're watching american history tv. 48 hours of programming on american history every weekend on c-span3. follow us on twitter @cspanhistory for information on our schedule, upcoming programs and to keep up with the latest history news. with live coverage of the u.s. house on c-span and the senate on c-span2, here on c-span3, we complement that coverage by showing you the most relevant congressional hearings and public affairs events. and then on wooeb ends, c-span3 is the home to american history tv with programs that tell our nation's story including six unique series, the civil war's
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150th anniversary, visiting battlefields and key events, american artifacts, touring museums and historic sites to discover what artifacts reveal about america's past. history bookshelf with the best known american history writers. the presidency looking at the policies and legacies of our nation's commanders in chief. lectures in history with top college professors delving into america's past. and our new series, "real america," featuring archival government and educational films from the 1930s through the '70s. c-sp c-span3, created by the cable tv industry and funded by your local cable or satellite provider. watch us in hd, like us on facebook and follow us on twitter. next on american history tv, we'll hear from a panelzdlá ab the personal and political consequences of warren harding's long-term love affair. the affair predated the 29th president's administration. surviving love letters detailing the relationship were, until very recently, kept under seal by the library of congress which
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hosted this event. the former president's grand-nephew, richard harding, explains why his family insisted on keeping the letters sealed and how the family continues to deal with the fallout from the affair and its impact on warren harding's legacy. this is about two hours. >> my name is jim hudson, i'm the chief of the library's manuscript division. on the stage with me, we have james romanalt, a distinguished trial attorney, partner in the cleveland firm of thompson hein. the author of two being booooke about his grandfather -- great-grandfather who was -- he has a wonderful title. he seems to have also been a magician, wasn't he? >> he was. >> a real magician. not just a magician in politics. >> no, he did both. >> but he was the chairman of the ohio democratic party during the harding era. and then, of


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